State police claim in newly released reports that an ambulance crew did indeed save the life of a patient while stuck in traffic at a New Haven protest and that the driver of another vehicle had to be helped through the crowd to ferry a “panicked” and “hysterically crying” pregnant woman to the hospital in time to deliver her baby.
Those allegations are detailed in three police police reports released to the Independent Tuesday in response to a state Freedom of Information Act request.
The reports were written by state Troopers Shawn Mansfield and Michael R. Beauton, a state police dog handler who patrols with a canine named Nero.
Mansfield and Beauton were among the state cops who arrived on the Route 34 Connector mini-highway shortly before 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4 after 150-200 demonstrators marched there and formed a human chain to block traffic in protest of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
The police handling of the protest has engendered passionate debate on both sides, from people who blame protesters for blocking a mini-highway that leads to a hospital to others who blame state cops for later using pepper spray and a police dog (which ended up attacking three officers) while arresting one of the protest leaders on a crowded Chapel Street sidewalk. The state police said they’re “reviewing” “multiple” aspects of how they handled the event.
In his report, Mansfield describes arriving to find protesters “armed with wooden sticks” and a “large figure ... which appeared to resemble the President of the United States (POTUS). Multiple protesters were wearing masks over their faces and winter type hats making only their eyes visible to TFC [Trooper First Class] Beauton and I. Through training and experience, these type of individuals are usually the agitators and can be hostile towards law enforcement personnel.” They radioed for “additional units,” more cops who arrived “with riot gear and cap stun (pepper spray).”
The report describes “the lead protester” as 66-year-old veteran New Haven activist Norman Clement and states he urged people to “keep the roadway blocked.”
“While waiting for further law enforcement presence on scene, an unknown individual came up to me and stated there was a pregnant female stuck in traffic about to give birth. I immediately responded, and found a pregnant female crying hysterically, appearing panicked. She stated she needed to go to the hospital. The male who was driving her to Yale-New Haven Hospital stated her contractions were approximately 2 minutes apart. I then directed all traffic towards the right side of the roadway in an attempt to get the vehicle through the roadway. I was able to move the vehicle off of the Air Rights Garage Exit of Route 34 Westbound and get the pregnant female and the male on their way to the hospital,” Mansfield writes.
The report proceeds to state that a Yale-New Haven charge nurse named Thomas Zalbumbide informed police dispatchers that “due to the delay on Route 34,” an American Medical Response (AMR) crew couldn’t “wait further to arrive” at the hospital so it performed “an emergency Needle [de]Compression” needed “to save the patient’s life. Had Emergency Medical Personnel not performed this medical procedure, due to the do not resuscitate (DNR) status of the patient, there would have been no further lifesaving procedures that could have been done to save his life.” The report added that the patient consented to allow the charge nurse to tell this to the state cops.
A woman answering the phone at the hospital’s general information number confirmed that Zalbumbide works in the emergency department. He couldn’t be reached for comment.
AMR issued a statement last week denying that the protest had prevented any of its ambulances from transporting a “critically ill” patient to the hospital. Clement’s attorney, Patricia Kane, said she told state police at the scene three times that protesters were ready to move out of the way of any ambulances. Clement is shown at the 58:20 mark of a video of the protest telling fellow demonstrators, “No one — no one! — gets by, unless it’s an ambulance.”
Back On City Turf
After a while demonstrators left the highway. Protest organizer John Lugo said they left without being told to; Mansfield’s report claims state police engaged in “getting all protesters off of Route 34.” He writes that police then “walked toward the protesters” as they now blocked Church Street and chanted “fuck pigs” and “cops are the KKK.”
At Chapel and Church streets, the two officers spotted Clement, who allegedly told them over a microphone, “If you think this is bad, just wait, this is just the beginning!” The report claims Beauton “pointed at Clement and advised him verbally that he was under arrest,” at which point Clement “immediately dropped his microphone and ran eastbound on Chapel Street in an attempt to escape arrest, ... knocking[ing] over multiple protesters.” The report states that two New Haven cops tackled Clement to the ground as he “continued to struggle.” Beauton was"unable to deploy” his police dog, the report states, so Beauton “deployed his O.C. pepper spray to Clement’s face.”
A video of the incident shows the trooper calling out: “See him right there! He’s the 37! He’s got the microphone! You’re under arrest!” And then the police charge toward him. (Clement is not visible in that portion of the video.)
Clement was charged with reckless use of the highway by a pedestrian, interfering with an officer, inciting to riot, breach of peace, and disorderly conduct.
Clement’s attorney, Kane, and fellow protest organizer Lugo, both of whom were present at the scene, stated the Clement ran to avoid not arrest, but the dog and the pepper spray, and that police were responsible for knocking over civilians.
After he was later released on a $5,000 bond from the state police Troop G Barracks, Clement told Mansfield “that if we ... did not want to be referred to as ‘Skin Heads and members of the KKK, we should do more to not look that part,’ assuming Clement was making reference to my shaved head.”
Reached on Tuesday, Clement said for now he is referring questions to Kane, who called the scene on Chapel Street a “police riot.”
Cop, Canine Accused Of Brutality
Meanwhile, Officer Beauton is the subject of a currently pending federal civil lawsuit filed by a Stratford man named Edgar Crespo.
In the suit, Crespo alleges that Beauton attacked him with his dog while stopping him while he was driving in Milford on Jan. 18, 2014, and arresting him on motor vehicle charges.
The complaint charges that Beauton:
” (a) approached the plaintiff’s parked vehicle, (b) shattered the entire glass window on the front driver-side door of said vehicle with a night stick, (c) ordered the plaintiff to show his hands, (d) violently and forcefully removed the plaintiff from plaintiff’s vehicle using a police dog to maul plaintiff’s limbs in the complete absence of any prior resistance whatsoever from the plaintiff, and, while plaintiff exited his vehicle with his arms and hands raised above his head, and without resistance, defendant Beauton, with the further aid and assistance of his police dog, and four other defendant officers, (e) violently forced the plaintiff, onto the pavement, turned him on his stomach, and (f) handcuffed the plaintiff from behind, again with no resistance whatsoever from plaintiff.
“All during this time, as plaintiff lay helpless on the ground being handcuffed, and surrounded by five police officers, Beauton, for absolutely no reason except to viciously punish the plaintiff, out of anger, for having caused the police to engage in a pursuit of plaintiff’s vehicle, continued to deliberately allow his police-trained canine to attack plaintiff, and to maul and tear the plaintiff’s left arm. At the same time, Beauton and four of the other police defendants who had surrounded plaintiff repeatedly struck the plaintiff with punches, kicks and police night-sticks, all of which caused the plaintiff to suffer serious, physical bodily injuries as well as extreme fear, anguish, distress, degradation and other psychic injuries as more fully described below. head, facial, chest and soft tissue trauma; multiple abrasions and contusions around the face, neck, chest, back and facial swelling in the area over the zygomatic arches; bleeding; massive left arm trauma with large puncture and large laceration hip, extending to the muscle of the arm, with exposed neurovascular structures, skin, soft tissue muscle and/or subcutaneous tissue missing from the upper arm; compression of the ulnar nerve; numbness and bleeding; and unsightly scarring.”
The office of state Attorney General George Jepsen filed a response brief denying the allegations against Beauton. The response states that the trooper’s “conduct was within the scope of his duties, and was not wanton, reckless or malicious.
Velleca: Lessons For Both Sides
New Haven cops could have helped prevent the Feb. 4 protest from going awry sooner by taking control of the situation from state cops and, without using dogs, arresting demonstrators who were blocking a highway, in the view of one retired assistant chief.
That retired assistant New Haven police chief, John Velleca, offered his views on the handling of the protest during an appearance Tuesday on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program.
On “Dateline,” Velleca, who reviewed an hour-and-44-minute video of the event (above), took a different stand from that of the two opposing sides in the debate, critical of decisions by both the protesters and the police.
Velleca criticized protesters for marching onto the Route 34 Connector and blocking traffic without permission.
He also criticized New Haven police for failing to take control of the situation, ceding authority to the state police, who are trained differently — including in the use of police canines for crowd control. New Haven police general orders forbid that use, Velleca said, while state police rules allow it.
“I would have liked to have seen ... a command level [New Haven officer] speaking with the state police before we even get there saying, ‘The New Haven PD is going to handle this. … From my experience, I am quite sure they would have said, ‘Thank you very much. We’ll see you later.’”
Once on the scene on Route 34, Velleca said, the shift commander should have taken action at the point of the protest shown at around the one-minute mark in the video, when protesters continued blocking the road and started swearing at cops, comparing them to Klansmen, and attacking a huge papier-mache sculpture of Donald Trump. The cop in charge should have then ordered the protesters to leave the road and arrested them if they refused to obey, he argued.
“That’s it. That protest is done. As soon as the cops are ‘fucking liars,’ as soon as ‘The cops and the Klan go hand in hand,’ and as soon as they’re not moving out of the road, everybody would have gotten arrested.
“When it becomes slanderous, obscene, and when you have a papier maché piñata that’s being struck over and over with a stick, that’s an imminent hostile act. They’re blocking the road. All these things put together … I don’t know who’s going to get hit next with the stick. Maybe it will be the piñata. Maybe it’s not going to be the piñata. Maybe it’s going to be one of the police officers.”
“Everything that happens after that point … when this thing should have been put to bed, is unfortunate,” Velleca said. “Because I don’t think there’s any good way to come out of this.”
No good did come out of it. Protesters left Route 34 of their own violation. They marched up Church Street to Chapel Street, now on city property. New Haven cops and state cops were both on the scene in force. On a crowded sidewalk, a state canine cop yelled to go after protest organizer Clement for alleged incitement to riot. That when chaos broke out, with the use of pepper spray, people getting knocked over, and the state canine biting two police officers and tearing the clothing of a third.
Again, Velleca said, New Haven police should have “taken the lead” and “very respectfully” asked the state police to step back. And dogs should not have been used.
“I think the dogs incited a lot of the animosity. I think the poor dog in there was having a hard time himself. He seemed pretty stressed out. You put a dog in that situation, it’s no wonder people get bit by accident.”
Looking ahead, Velleca said New Haven police need to train for more such unplanned, surprise protests, including demonstrators taking over streets and engaging in civil disobedience. Current police officials said they are in fact doing that training.
Back in 2009, during the “Occupy New Haven” protest encampment on the Green, New Haven police underwent crowd-control training that helped them stay cool and de-escalate potentially dangerous situations, Velleca said. He expressed confidence that even in these newly challenging times, New Haven police will maintain their reputation for handling protests calmly and professionally.
“There will be people challenging police,” he noted. “The officers have to be bigger than that. The officers have to be smarter than that. And I think they are.” It’s up to department leadership to direct them in that spirit, he said, to “keep the protesters safe and keep the people in the community safe.”
Click on or download the above audio file to listen to the full interview with John Velleca on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven,” including discussion of why state and New Haven police policies differ on handling of corpses at homicide scenes; and of past protests in which police officers have illegally blocked traffic and disrupted government.